Ureaplasma urealyticum is relatively common in the respiratory tract of very low birth weight infants and has been hypothesized to be involved in the development of chronic lung disease. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether U. urealyticum could stimulate macrophages to produce proinflammatory cytokines in vitro, which are early pathologic changes in the lung during the development of chronic lung disease. A human monocytic cell line (THP-1) differentiated to macrophages, a rat alveolar macrophage cell line (Nr8383), and human lung macrophages from tracheobronchial aspirate fluid in preterm infants were exposed to U. urealyticum antigen for 24 h. The protein levels of human IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and rat TNF-alpha were measured with ELISA. Rat IL-6 was analyzed with a specific bioassay. The mRNA levels of these cytokines were detected by reverse transcriptase-PCR. The production of TNF-alpha and IL-6 increased after stimulation with U. urealyticum in both the human and rat macrophage cell lines. In tracheobronchial aspirate fluid macrophages, U. urealyticum increased the production of TNF-alpha from 14 to 84% and IL-6 from 46 to 268% above control levels. U. urealyticum also induced gene expression of TNF-alpha and IL-6. In conclusion, U. urealyticum could be an important factor in the development of chronic lung disease because of its ability to induce alveolar macrophage proinflammatory cytokine production.